Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fun and Games and Writing in Amish Country

It's Sunday, Day Three of the Labor Day writing retreat. My Wilkes writing pals and I are having a fantastic time! We have an overstocked refrigerator, lots of coolers and the entire dining room table is covered in a Junk Food Buffet-- about a dozen kinds of chips (Lay's, Dorito's, Sun Chips, Fritos, Tortillas and more), rice krispie treats, pretzel rods, cookies- lots of cookies, and oh god, so, so much junk food.

Friday, we were up late catching up and there was a major dent put in a bottle of Jagermeister. We did a reading-Mike shared from his amazing story and then we played some games. I learned a new one, "It's true for me that...." which is kind of like a cross between Musical Chairs and Truth or Dare. It was after 4 a.m. before the last of us hit the sack.

Saturday, we slept in a little and enjoyed breakfast on our own and then my contribution to the food was lunch. We had a "Build Your Own Bob" lunch, where I had chicken, shrimp, green peppers, red peppers, onions, squash, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. The grill at our rental house was a little slow, so the cooking of the bobs took longer than expected, but it was a fun project. On the side we had Sweet Baby Ray's barbeque sauce for the chicken, Amish potato salad, coleslaw and pickles. Mmmm!! After lunch, my hangover dwindled- thank goodness.

Carol, Viannah and I took a field trip into Intercourse and stumbled upon Kettle Kitchen- a quaint, well-kept tourist-y village that had closed at 5 p.m. that day- so we missed seeing the insides, but we are going back Monday (they are closed today) to check everything out. I already took tons of pictures- there are 42 shops, a petting zoo and lots of cool things. So, so cute! On the way back, we got our picture in front of the "Welcome to Intercourse" sign and bought some baked and canned goods from a roadside stand-- the Shoo Fly pie was amazing! Just had another slice!

Later, we started to have some beverages, did some readings- Carol and I- played Balderdash-- but we were all starting to crash- long day and we up so late from the night before. I hit the sack around 2:30 a.m. Angie and I are sharing a Beauty & the Beast themed bedroom. Too cute.

This morning, Cory & Sara were in charge of breakfast- Eggs in a Nest (which I grew up with, calling them picture frame eggs) and mimmosas. Now it's about noon and we're getting ready to do some readings. We're having Taco Lunch and another grilled dinner- steak and corn and fruit salad.

As far as my reading went, my classmates gave me some great advice. I can't say enough about this group of people!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Ghost of My Blogging Past

I don't really think of my blog as a diary. But in a way, it kind of is. I don't really get too personal or gushy like you would in a diary, but when you go back an re-read things from months or years before, you sometimes get a good feeling. You remember the emotions that you were feeling at the time you wrote it. As someone striving to become a memoirist, I've realized how much I wished I had written more down as I've lived my life. I looked back at a post from June 2007. It was a point in my life where I was somewhat content with a job at a local career school, although I hated the fact that they didn't use computers and hated the fact that they laughed at me when I mentioned that we should try advertising online and maybe doing something with MySpace or Facebook to attract students. (Haha- I now laugh at that company because I work for a company now that "gets it.")

So, I found a post that captured my thoughts at the time I made the decision to leave that place-- and because I believed in my ideas, my goals and myself- I found such happiness. Here is what I wrote in June 2007:

NOW SOME ADVICE FROM DONNA FOR ANYONE WHO NEEDS A PUSH:So, I was really thinking about how happy I am that I stood up for my choice in leaving my job. For those that don't know "The Man" (as I collectively call corporate America) wasn't gonna let me take off the last Friday of the residency. I don't think anyone with heart and soul would let The Man stand in the way of their dreams. Unhappy with other 'goings-ons' at the place, I decided that because they didn't see the value in letting me take off one measly day and missing a mandatory training, I gave my two weeks notice.What did I get in return for staying true to my heart, you ask?

1) A kick-ass new job @ Solid Cactus

2) 40+ new writing friends who understand the creative life!

3) Some great new writing mentors

4) A few people who I think will be close friends for life

5) Tons o' fun & lots
'o memories and jokes

6) 3 credits toward my master's

7) Motivation and energy

8) Ideas

And to think I would have traded eight hours of corporate training for all that! I made the right choice and I absolutely can't wait to continue on with this program. I seriously think this will change my life. Screw The Man. Let's write. Someone is smiling down on me....

I guess getting ready to spend more time with the peeps I met right before I wrote this last year is really reinforcing my decision. Since then,
not only has my writing grown, friendships blossomed, but things
career-wise have been awesome too. Hmmm. Think I'm happy??

Another Writer's Retreat this Labor Day Weekend! Second Annual!

I can't believe it has been one year since the first time my fellow Wilkes creative writers and I have gotten together for a retreat! Last Labor Day, my friend Mike S. invited us out to his house in Western Pa. We had a blast- you can read all about it here from my blog archives. Some nice pics, too.
Then, in April, we all got together again- even a few more of us than the first time- for a houseboat weekend at Raystown Lake in Central PA. Equally an awesome time. Here is my post-trip post on that.

This Labor Day, we're celebrating our second annual Jan09 Cohort Labor Day Outing-- doing something in Eastern PA- In Amish Country, Gap, PA to be exact. We're chipping in to rent a big house for three days-- we're gonna eat, brainstorm, read, critque, help, write, play games, party a little I am sure and enjoy some relaxing time in the hot tub or just in the quiet Amish country. There are almost 30 in our cohort group, but a small group of us- about 10 (including two spouses) are coming along for the fun! I can't wait-- I am all packed. Well mostly packed. And I am sure I will forget something. And I have to stop for groceries and beer along the way. Tonight, I have been deciding what I want to read to the group. I have a few chapters I want to read to entertain, and then a few I could use some help with-- so I am torn.
A sidebar to this is we were originally going to rent a home that was suspected to be haunting, but the property manager failed to update the website- the house was no longer available for rent. That was a big bummer because I was secretly thrilled about waking up in the middle of the night with a scary looking girl jumping rope in my room. But it really doesn't matter where we are- a friend's house, a house boat or a haunted house- it's about the time together!

I can't tell you how much these weekends mean to me- and I am sure the others. Time is ticking- we graduate in January! Some of us are considering sticking in the Wilkes program for one more year to do the M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I almost want to do it not for the additional degree or teaching credentials, but to be around my comrades of composition one more year. I know that this group we have is tight and we'll stay in touch the best we can, but I am going to soak up these retreats we do, the actual classroom/seminar time we have on campus each January and June and the online correspondence with my mentors and friends.

Oh- here's some pics and info on where I will be this weekend:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

They Have Arrived

Just to follow up from my blog post from the other day. My Amazon books have arrived. Three days early! Woo hoo. Now that I have four new books, it only makes my decision harder of what book to start reading. Of course, as a reader commented today on my last post, I am obligated to read the company book club choice first. His wife had suggested picking a name out of a hat, which is a democratic way to decide. I may have to do that because I really don't know how to pick.

But wait. I guess I did kinda pick. I was just too curious and couldn't sleep, so I did start to read the OED book and I am quite amused. I made it up to Chapter F, which in numerics, would be Chapter 6. Twenty more to go. I laughed outloud which always makes me feel kinda funny when I am home alone. My cat hears me, sure, but does she really now what a laugh is. I wish animals could laugh.

I didn't want to get invested into reading a book when I have to start Three Cups of Tea, but my book club mates haven't received their copies yet, so I didn't want to get ahead. So now I am trapped. I started another book. I must read Chapter F-Z fast. It's a quick read, so I think I can have it done by the weekend.

So, has anyone read any of the books I just bought? Any recommendations?

Monday, August 25, 2008

I accidentally spent $113.00 at Barnes and Noble today-- knowing I had a $60 Amazon order on the way...

A well-read coworker, C. of mine had a grand idea: A company book club. In fact, I joked to another coworker a few weeks ago when we said we were going to start reading on or near the hammock in our courtyard that we should have a club. But that was just a joke in passing. Proving great minds really do think alike, a new book club has newly formed and our first book was just selected: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It's been on the best seller list for about 80 weeks now- and is the inspirational story of a man who built schools in Pakistan.... and way too much more to write here...

So, I went to Barnes and Noble in Wilkes-Barre to pick up the book. It was right there at the front of the store in the New in Paperback/Bestsellers area. I could have picked up the two copies I went in to buy, walked to the register and have been home and reading. But no. I did the deadliest thing you could do in a Barnes and Noble. Yep. I browsed. I ended up saying to the clerk, " I think today is the day I should sign up for the Barnes & Noble membership." I saved 10%! Woo hoo and thank goodness.

I decided to see what was out there... so I checked out the books they keep on the tables. The cover of The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: a novel of war and survival by Louise Murphy caught my eye. I was always a fan of a modern spin on an old story. This story is about a brother and sister in Nazi Poland whose dad and step-mom leave them to find safety in a forest-- they are renamed Hansel and Gretel to hide their Jewish roots. They are taken in by an older woman, Magda who tires to save them, despite a German officer who is looking for the kids-- and has plans for them. Wow. It sounded riveting. I picked it up and added it to my armload shopping cart.

On the same table, Erica's Nightstand, I saw My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands by Chelsea Handler. I read an interview with Chelsea Handler in the Weekender by my pal Nikki Mascali (an incredible article) and had wanted to pick up Chelsea's book since. I am working on my coming-of-age memoir, but have some tales I want to tell about my adulthood adventures, so this book by this new comedic genius has long been a book I've been meaning to get- for both research and enjoyment. I love her humor and her openess. I figure this could be like a female Augusten Burroughs type humor.

After I picked of My Horizontal Life, it dawned on me that I really should be reading more memoirs, so I went to the Biography section. A whole crapload of titles jumped out at me. I picked up a few, read the descriptions, held them for a while and then finallly settled on one. Since I am working on a childhood memoir and am struggling a bit with some scenes and building some family members as characters, I thought this one would be interesting: Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History by Helen Stapinski. The book is billed as humorous, which I like in a memoir. It's a "story of an unforgettable New Jersey family of swindlers, bookies, embezzlers and mobster wannabes."

I thought I was done. I thought that was it. But even after getting four new books, as I walked to the front, another title jumped out at me: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea. It's a book about a man who read the Oxford English Dictionary, something I've always wanted to do since I began playing Scrabble as a small child, something I believe my mother does every night. The book is 26 chapters long- you guessed it- one chapter for each letter. It's full of little tidbits about what he discovered while reading the God of All Resource Books. I figure since I love words and vocabulary, this would be a quick, fun read- much quicker and 'funner' than reading the dictionary myself. I like quirky and absurd stuff, so it's really right up my alley.

But guess what? Before this trip to Barnes and Noble, last week I ordered four books from they shipped today, as per an email I received on my phone a few hours ago. So, I now have 9 brand new books. I should read Three Cups of Tea first, but what next? What do all you book lovers think?

Oh yeah- here's what I got at Amazon: The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam- I bought this because in my "idea box" at home, most of the paper where the ideas are written are on bar napkins. (Maybe there is even one to write a book and call it The Back of a Napkin!") Amazon didn't know that part, but somehow it was recommended to me and it looked pretty interesting.

A Working Stiff's Manifesto: A Memoir of 30 Jobs I Quit, Nine that Fired Me and Three I Can't Remember by Iain Levinson- I ordered this one because again, Amazon knows I buy A LOT of memoirs so it suggested this-- successfully I may add. This sounded like a funny read.

Indexed by Jessica Hagy- Again, a recommendation from Amazon. I love bloggers and blogging and love how books can come from blogs, like Tucker Max and Diablo Cody. At any rate, the cover of this book attracted me from the get-go. She has a blog at indexed.blogspot.gom where she drawns charts and other things to share her thoughts on life. So this book is her greatest blog posts, as well as new material.

Unrealiable Truth by Maureen Murdock- I am very excited about this one- again, recommended by Amazon since I buy so many memoirs and writing books. It is a craft book (as in writing, not arts & crafts) I wish I found earlier. Many memoirists struggle with their memory -- what we write may be different than what a family member will remember- memory is a fascinating thing and this book is there to help. In Unreliable Truth, Murdock shows us how to deal with this beast called memory.

As I write about these four books that are coming in the mail, I am getting more excited for them. So now I have nine new books, not to mention a slew of other books I have yet to read like Tobias Wolfe's This Boys Life and Bastard Out of Carolina.

What I have learned just by sharing these nine titles is that I have one helluva wide range in book tastes. Funny. Satirical. How-to. Memoir. Wartime thriller. Absurd. Inspirational. Nearly Pictoral. So yeah, I'm different.

Saturday, August 23, 2008 Nightmare with Continental Airlines: Cleveland Didn't Rock for Me

I received a complaint about my blog. Apparently, I made a promise on Tuesday, August 19th that my very next blog post would be about my layover experience.

"Instead, you wrote about furniture," said this person who we will call John Dawe. "I wanted to read about the day you called me crying."

Here is a snippet of that blog to show my promise there, in black and white-- pay attention to the big, blog line:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

3-4 in Oklahoma

After I checked out of the hotel on Saturday morning, I didn't have Wi-Fi until very late Sunday night when I checked back into the hotel near the airport- then, I wanted to write my final OK vacation blog from the Tulsa airport- but they charged $5.95 an hour for W-Fi. Ugh. My Cleveland layover you'll learn about in my next blog. And Monday I traveled all day and crashed and went right to work this morning and went on a shopping extravaganza after work- so ah, the final vacation post isn't happening until just.... about.... now.

So, thanks to John Dawe, I will write about my fiasco in Cleveland. I don't travel much by air. Hell, I don't travel much period. So, I was pretty happy with how my trip planned out on the way there. Both planes were on time. My rental car was there. The hotel had my reservation. did a great job of getting me there safely, cheaply and without any hassles.

The way back was going fine too. My flight from Tulsa was on time. I arrived to Cleveland on time. As I walked to the gate in the terminal to board my flight home, to Wilkes-Barre I noticed something on my boarding pass. Well, it turned out it really wasn't a boarding pass.

"Please check in at gate," it read. What does this mean, I thought to myself.

The uniformed lady at the gate told me that the flight was overbooked and two of us did not have seats. They were actively looking for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a travel voucher of $300. At this point, my flight was set to leave in about 45-minutes, which meant I was basically two hours away from being home. Four days isn't long, but I did miss my cat. And, I needed to be at work Tuesday.

"When is the next flight," I asked, feeling the tears well up.

"That's overbooked too," said the lady.

I told her about my job and my cat and asked how I could buy a ticket for a seat that didn't exist. I felt myself starting to get upset, which I don't like to do, when they lady said to me very nicely, "Please just have some hope."

When she that, it reminded me of "It is what it is" and that I really couldn't change anything. So, I decided not to get angry at her and try to think positive. I took myself over to an empty area and plopped down with my notebook, my laptop and cell phone. I texted my coworker John Dawe (who recently became a fan of Continental Airlines on Facebook, which is important to the story) and said verbatim: "I will not join you as a fan of Continental Airlines. I am stranded in Cleveland until further notice. Flight was overbooked." That was my form of venting to a friend.

I was going to call and speak to customer service. The only number I had jotted down was the hotel service line. I tried to hit "0" to talk to someone and maybe get the fligh department. No luck. The recorded voice simply said, "Goodbye" when I tried to trick the system. I then tried to log online- I was having wi-fi issues- said I was connected but yet not pages were open. So, I opened Google on my phone and found the regular number. That number only allowed you to buy something, not get service. In the meantime, Dawe had called me back and got me on the phone with one of the owners of our company who is a travel guru.

He had me walk to the Continental Airlines desk and ask if I could get on a flight to Philly on US Air-- they have a hub there. The lady was going to look that up, but then we had the idea to instead stay on Continental and fly into Newark. Then, I would rent a car and drive to Wilkes-Barre. I was so glad to have he and Dawe on the phone- they kept me sane. So, they switched flights, switched my luggage, gave me a deviation slip and all.

"No matter what airport I end up at, I am heading right to the bar, " I joked to the guys on the phone.

They were still on the phone with me to make sure everything worked out. I overheard someone on the speaker say, "We're still looking for one more volunteer to give up their seat for Flight # (I forget) to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton..." I asked the lady if that meant I had a seat... she said no, because I was second in line. The first lady got on the flight. Now it was just me. A few more minutes passed and a woman came to the desk- she would give up here seat. It was 3:45 and my original flight was set to leave at 4:10- the boarding just about ready to start. I asked if that meant I had a seat- Yes.

So, the woman had to change me back to the Wilkes-Barre flight, make sure my luggage was switched back, I thanked my co-workers for coming up with an alternate route for me and got off the phone and headed back to Wilkes-Barre. That woman was my hero- with not a minute to spare, she decided to wait for a new flight in exchange for $300.

I don't know who to blame. Continental Airlines? Myself for not consulting my travel gurus first before booking a flight through a site like Priceline? Why do they overbook flights? I theorize because so many people can buy flights from so many different sources that the inventory doesn't sync right away. Either way, I am thankful I didn't have to go to Newark and drive back to PA- which would have taken two additional hours, or that I didn't have to stay the night in a crappy hotel and miss a day of work to take a flight the next day.

If I did get stranded for the night, you can bet I would have taxited to the real Warsaw, where Drew, Louis, Oswald and Kate used to drink at on the Drew Carey show.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

If you are nice, I will buy...

I wanted to blog about this for the past week, but with my trip and all, I was focused on blogging about OK and memories and the like. But now, I'll share my experience of getting some great service.

Kurlancheek Home Furnishings
Since I moved into my new digs in May, I've had yet to get a dining room table. I didn't want to get anything elaborate for upwards of $1000-2000 that many dining room sets cost. And I didn't want a cheap, put-it-together-yourself solution either. For the past few months I've been getting inserts in a free flyer for this furniture store in Exeter for a five peice set for $299. Looked pretty decent. So, I went to what I thought was the store in Exeter.... how many furniture stores could this little Route 11 town have? But the name on the building said, "Kurlancheek" and that was not the name on the flyer. The Kurlancheeks used to have a store on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre (where I bought my first bed when I moved out on my own, way back in 1997) and I think some other locations as well. I was quickly approached by a woman who I asked what I was looking for. She quickly cleared up that they were not the store on the flyer-- but didn't say anything bad about them. I was comfortable with the name; I trust the Kurlancheek name. So, I bought a pub table with four chairs for pretty much the same price- and never even considered going to the original store I was headed to-- it was a happy mistake.

But what impressed me was three days later I received a hand-writen thank-you card on personal stationery from the saleswoman. She thanked me for shopping at Kurlancheek and said something really nice in the card: "Enjoy your new table and chairs and all the happy gatherings around it." That makes a huge difference in my book. I will most definitely shop there again, and would recommend them to anyone. No pressure- just friendly service. ;)

Journey's and My Reef Sandals

Before my trip to OK, I was getting some things at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre. I was looking for a pair of black flip-flops. You know, a cheap pair. But I didn't want them to be too cheap- not the flimsy kind. I really wasn't able to find what I was looking for. I somehow ended up in Journey's- that really cool and hip shoe store that also sells funny and retro shirts. I was perusing the sandals- not seeing and cheap flip-flops, when the salesguy approached me. Cool dude, probably a senior in high school or in college-- he was friendly, asked what I was looking for, etc. I told him I was looking for something black, but didn't see anything ... he asked me if I ever wore a Reef sandal. No. He said, "Man- you gotta try them on." So I did. Comfy. When I took off the sandal, he picked it up and said, "And the best part is, it comes with its own bottle opener!" He turned the Reef sandal over and pointed to a bottle opener. I was sold. Did I need $45 flip-flops? No. Did I need a set of $45 bottle openers? No. Did I like his enthusiasm for the products he sold and I loved that we approached me and made a suggestion, so I rewarded him with a sale. I think that's the reason I sold a lot of newspapers as a teenager- not because someone wanted or needed the Tulsa World, but probably because they saw my enthusiasm and recognized my hard work and they wanted to buy. I am in sales to this day- and I think that this trait carried through.

How did the Reef sandals fare? AWESOME! I've worn them every day since, except to work. They are super comfortable and were a huge hit at the party in OK. A little bird told me if you search on YouTube for "Reef sandals video" you just may find me in a video demonstrating them.... Seriously, though- they are cool. I just did a search for mine to put a pic up, and Zappo's has them for $50... you can get them cheaper from my new friend at Journey's at the mall!

The bottom line is that I love when people love their jobs. And I can't stand when people can't stand their job-- folks, it shines through and scares me away. I've been in stores where people don't greet you or approach you, and where the clerk doesn't even say a word- one girl actually pointed to the register at my total and was miserable the whole time. I know she could talk because she was talking before. When people hate what they do- I don't feel encouraged to buy from them. On the flip side, when I am simply browsing and someone connects with me, I end up buying something. And, when someone like Dorothy at Kurlancheek sends a lovely card- I will remember. Good service to me breeds good business- and when service is good- the best possible thing can happen-- people will tell their friends, their coworkers and their family-- word of mouth is the best advertising you can as for.
So that's why I wrote this blog. To publicly praise these great salespeople. Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Days 3-4 in Oklahoma

After I checked out of the hotel on Saturday morning, I didn't have Wi-Fi until very late Sunday night when I checked back into the hotel near the airport- then, I wanted to write my final OK vacation blog from the Tulsa airport- but they charged $5.95 an hour for W-Fi. Ugh. My Cleveland layover you'll learn about in my next blog. And Monday I traveled all day and crashed and went right to work this morning and went on a shopping extravaganza after work- so ah, the final vacation post isn't happening until just.... about.... now.


So- Saturday, after I checked out almost an hour late, my friend DG called me- he wanted to meet up- I wanted to get to my cousin's by 6ish, and they all live about an hour and a half from Tulsa in various towns like Krebs and Haileyville. He had to run his daughter somewhere and said he'd call when he was done. So, in between I did some more memoir research. I drove to the Yacht Club Apartment Homes, the first place I lived in Tulsa- first staying with my Grandmother and Theresa, and then getting our own place in the same complex. I actually made a video of it to help with my memoir. I recorded myself on the walks I used to take. Then, I stopped at Sonic and had a Coney and a Cherry Limeade- my first one in 14 years. (The pic to the left is of DG and I-- he is also in that pic a few posts back from when I was in OK as a teenager!)

After my enjoyable lunch, I decided to do more gallavanting- wanted to walk around the Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa-- my mom worked as a manager of a store in the food court for a while and I spent a lot of time there-- but the mall parking lot was an absolute zoo-- so I didn't go in. By then, DG had called and we decided to meet up for a beer at a place called The Fox & The Hound in Broken Arrow. It was great catching up with him! Like with J, he reminded me of things I forgot, I reminded him of things he forgot- we caught up about families and careers. My visit with him wasn't as long as with J's, but it was equally wonderful! He said something really pivotal about our teenage years selling newspapers: "Somehow we accidentally learned some morals." My memoir centers around this job and what it meant- he and I discussed how at the time it was just something to do, to earn some money and have some fun. As adults, he and I both look back and see how this job helped us be the hardworkers we both are today. Kind of neat about reuniting with these people I haven't seen since I was a kid and hearing how we were similarly affected and all consider the job one of the most important things in our lives.


I made one more stop at Quick Trip and hit my cousin's address on the GPS. I met my cousin Shawn and is girlfriend Rachel at her parent's Italian grocery (where they live in the above apartment)-- it's a 100-year-old building and just adorable. He made an kick-ass lasagna with fresh veggies and herbs from the garden and a kick-ass bruschetta-- oh my good. Amazing. We all ate dinner at my cousin Eli's groovy pad, which was walking distance from Shawn's. My Uncle Pat; my cousin Zack and his wife and daughter, Tina and Ember; my cousin Michael, Shawn & Rachel and her son Matteo, and a few friends enjoyed the awesome dinner and some drinks. After dinner, me and Pat went to get some beer and we pretty much partied into the night at Eli's- went to a bar to see a band- hung out again until about 3-4am. Eli has lots of friends and neighbors so throughout the night, I got to meet of ton of locals passing in and out of the house. We took lots of pics, videos and laughed the light away. It was incredible to see everyone again- we had one killer time. (Picture- Eli, Michael, Shawn, Me, Tina holding Ember, Zack and Pat in front.)
The next morning, we didn't get up until about 11am-- we all got ready and went up the mountain to hang out at Pat's (and where all the boys grew up) and hung out, played Balderdash and chatted. We decided to head back into town-- picked up some pizza and this time headed to Zack and Tina's house for dinner. Tina made an awesome salad and pulled out some of her homemade bread and butter pickles- awesome. All of a sudden it was almost 8pm- I decided to head back to Tulsa to get a hotel by the airport so I didn't miss my flight. (Picture- Their friend Gates, Rachel, Shawn, Friend Kyle, me, and Eli an an awesome Beatles shirt).

Taking this trip was the best idea I've had in a long time. Just being in Tulsa brought back a flood of memories. As I walked various spots around town, I could feel emotions-- like my mind/body knew something important happened at that very place. I tried to take in everything- even smells and sounds. The hardest part about writing a memoir is the details- not just the little details about people and places from long ago, but also the feelings and how I felt that long ago. This trip really helped me. I took lots of notes. I even did some research that I didn't think I'd do.

Aside from the memoir research, being back with most of my cousins (there is only one I didn't get to see of the Duffy pack- he's in NJ) was awesome. All of them now have their own places, and in some cases, their own families. I grew up with these boys at the most important part of our lives I think- the childhood years. It's with them that I learned how to be one of the boys, a trait I think I've had since I was very young. They've all done some incredible things in their lives-- many have explored a lot of the globe- and they have such strong family values yet live simple, humble lives-- I often wish we saw each other more. Love them so much!! But I'll tell ya what- even though we don't see each other very often, when we get together, we instantly connect like we just saw each other yesterday and we always stay up until dawn together- whether it's partying (now that we're older), playing games or watching the Goonies over and over again.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 2ish in Tulsa

Wow am I tired. I kind of like that everything is slower paced out here in Tulsa- speech, driving, etc. I woke up at 11:00am and was worried I was late for check-out- I called to let them know and they said, "You're good- check-out is at noon." So what did I do? Slept a little more and know I am blogging- won't have wi-fi now for a day or so- so I am checking out about 15 minutes late.

The "Quadroplex" - this is where I lived for most of my memoir. Good and horrible memories from this place!

Yesterday was awesome- I already wrote about lunch with my cousin, but after that I met up with my old friend J and we went gallavanting aroud Tulsa- he has a great memory, so we were able to find all my old houses. We heard that our one other old friend M. worked at the Wal-Mart in Sand Springs, so we headed out there to see if she was there- about 15 minutes out of town. On the way there, we got off an exit and J directed me to DG's old house- it was tinier than I remember-- he was our first friend back then who had his own place and we partied there one night- the first night I ever got sick from drinking. See? This is what this trip is all about- the good memories. We never found M. but we did get in touch- through a Nancy-Drew-like-process with DG- he doesn't know we went by his old house yet- he was busy last night but I may do lunch with him today.

D and his girlfriend J had a bunch of the old newspaper crew over here in West Tula one night- my first time being sick and some other memorable things.

Our other old crew buddy DT was going to meet up with us, but never made it. That made me a little sad. So, J and I hit up a bar called Crawpappy's- the kitchen was closed. Darn. We had a few Bud Lights, a Yager and two Rattlesnakers, which I forgot existed- again- brining back memories. After the bar, we were gonna do breakfast because I was starving but I asked if Taco Bueno was open late- they were- so we went there instead. That was a top priority on my list for this weekend! Eat at Taco Bueno.

J and I inside my first Tulsa bar experience- Crawpappy's- not a bad place. Hey-- scroll down a few posts to "Knocking on Tulsa's Door." There is a pic of me and him from 1993 and here we are today! Haha! He still likes green stripes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Old School. No really. My Old School. And catching up with cousins....

Had a great lazy morning! Slept in, wrote a blog, took my time getting ready. I made plans to meet up for a late lunch with my cousin G. and his wife M. before they headed to Texas for the weekend to see her brother- wow- talk about timing! If I came in a day later I would have missed them.

School is already in session in Tulsa, so I stopped by my old Middle School first, Nimitz Middle School, got a visitors badge and asked about what teachers from 1990-1992 were still teaching there- three of them that I had were there and all had their lunch breaks at noon- so they let me hang out in the teachers lounge until then. I found all three- they were a great three to run into as well. Mr. S. was the art teacher, but also the yearbook advisor and I was on the staff- it was his second year doing it, so he didn't remember me exactly, but he remembered the yearbook- I explained to him that I remained doing yearbook and newspaper stuff through the rest of my school years-- and we talked about how when I was in 8th grade we cut pictures with scissors and used rubber cement to make collages and for all the layouts, we used to do everything my hand with these big layout sheets. Wow! Mrs. B. was my English teacher and she was thrilled that I was writing a book- she literally jumped for joy. Mr. Y. was my civics teacher and I didn't get to tell him that for a time I was active in the local young democrats. So they were three classes and teachers I enjoyed so it was neat they were still there. Our reunion was only for five minutes, but it was neat!!

Then, I went to Memorial High School. Got a visitor pass and said I was going to the office, but I walked the whole school. I knew a guy I went to school with that was teaching math there-- I walked by a classroom and heard a very loud teacher- it was R.P!! I peeked in the window and he was in-depth in the middle of a lesson, so I didn't knock- but I kind of wish I did. I was at the school at a bad time- the bell had just rang, so it would have been hard to get to see anyone and time was ticking- I had to meet G and M for lunch.
We chose El Chico, a Mexican place with a few locations in Tulsa, but we chose the one in the mall. We had a really nice time catching up- mainly talking about our schooling, major changing, etc. They are both super smart and sharp and I wish them all the luck in the world! The great thing about my family is that we take chances and never settle-- I can see that in G and his wife too. When they graduate college, they are likely to leave Tulsa and head to the Northwest-- just like that. It's awesome.

Just thought I'd check in with a blog so I can keep these memories fresh, too. Tonight- gonna drive by the old places I've lived and walk around, try for some pics (one of the apartments became a gated community so not sure how to get in there now- but I have been known to be very resourceful) and then later try and catch up with some old friends from the newspaper crew. I asked G where some hot nightspots were so if I can't meet up with people I know, I may just go hang out on Cherry Street, where there is supposedly some great live music on weekends. Loving my trip so far.

Day 1.5 in Tulsa

Hello everyone. I cannot believe I am here. Seriously. It's one thing to grow up somewhere and go back and visit every now and then- it still seems recent that way. But man- it's been 14 years since I have been here. It was hard to see Tulsa last night becauseI arrived around 10:15 Central Time and was dark. I actually had a great flight from Wilkes-Barre to Cleveland- sat next to a man I checked in behind and then subsequently saw him again in the airport bar beforehand- I had a few Lagers before the flight. It's kind of strange- every time I fly I play a game with myself in the terminal called, "Who Do I Think I Will Sit Next To." So, I won. I thought it'd be nice to sit next to him because he seemed nice, and I was the last one on the place and looked at my seat, and lo and behold, it was next to his.
We struck up a conversation and it was amazing- he's a newspaper guy. Publishes a Midwest alternative weekly like the one I used to freelance for-- and he used to work for the Village Voice- the god of all alt. weeklies. He's getting ready to launch his new website and I work in the Internet industry so we had a great conversation the whole way about the net, targeted marketing, the future of advertising, books, skydiving-- the whole nine yards. We didn't exchange information or anything, but I may try to look him up and tell him how he made my flight!

My flight from Cleveland to Tulsa was pretty bumpy. We rode on clouds the whole time. I did play the, "Who Do I Think I Will Set Next To Game." I was kinda hoping Drew Carey would be on my flight since he is from Cleveland. As I was enjoying a Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie (which cost me $6.00), I scanned D8 terminal and picked out a nice lady I thought I'd hit it off with. Turns out, the way this plane is set up, I sat next to no one. The left aisle only had one seat, so I scored gold and got a window and an aisle, the wing seat. It was so cloudy, I couldn't see a thing the whole way, but the sky cleared when we were over Tulsa- pretty cool and hopefully telling of my trip.
The landing was bumpy- the wheels were squeaky, but I landed so I wasn't going to complain. I got my purple luggage and headed to Hertz. I was given a free upgrade to a small SUV- a Mazda Tribute- also with a free GPS. I punched in the address of my hotel and let the computerized lady tell me where to go. So, I didn't have to worry about remembering my way around. I still made a wrong turn and ended up passing my old apartment-- my heart was racing- I could tell I was getting excited for my adventure. I turned around and found my hotel, checked in, called one of my friends here in Tulsa and crashed.

I just got out of the shower and am waiting for my cousin G. to call me back about breakfast. If he doesn't call soon, I am headed to my old middle school and high school. I heard that some of my old HS friends teach at the high school, which is cool. Have to get some batteries first for by DV(oice)R.

So, since I am in OK, I will say, see y'all lated.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Knocking on Tulsa's Door: Excavating Memories

Wow. I can't believe I am headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma tomorrow after work. I'm packing light and prepared to walk, talk, interview, observe and finally, just visit. Most of all, I want to excavate memories. Some for the purpose of my memoir, some with my family.

14 years since I've been there. I've seen my Oklahoma aunt and uncle and cousins since I've moved, but always here in PA. I haven't seen or really heard from anyone I went to school or worked with in Tulsa since I was 16. Thanks to social networking, I've reconnected with one of my best Tulsa friends and coworkers and have been talking with for a few months, we'll call him JP. Aside from that, very recently I've connected with a few on Facebook- but many of them do not live in Tulsa anymore. And just this week, I found two more friends- one via the online white pages (GH) and then another from GH who passed along DTs (not me, haha, same initials) number. I wasn't sure where I would stay, but I finally decided to book a room in Tulsa for my first two nights this way I have wi-fi and a reference point while I am in town. I found a hotel a few blocks from where I used to live. This is great because I can walk around my old neighborhoods!! I am stoked.
J and I before a Little Texas concert at the Tulsa Fair in 1993 (?)

Now let's get back to GH. And let me preface this by saying this will be a rare "sentimental blog entry" for me.... GH was my boss when I sold newspapers door-to-door for the Tulsa World. My first boss and a HUGE part of my life. Can't give away all the details or else you'd have nothing to look forward to for my in-progress memoir. At any rate, a few years ago I watched The Secret. One part of that DVD really struck me- about gratitude for what others have done for you and how once you start to feel that and recognized that, positive things can come your way. So, that inspired me to write hand-written letters to several people who really inspired me and enouraged me in my life, or even some that did really big favors for me in the past. One of those letters went to GH- although I was never sure if it was the correct address.

I really didn't have business cards. There was a machine at the mall and we all made our own cards. I think for $1.00 you got four.

So- one of the first things he said when we began to talk last night was, "So, I got your letter." There's long stories involved, not for this blog, but he didn't respond to the letter back then. And that's okay- I wasn't looking for people to respond. Anyway, in my letter to him I mentioned the positive impact he had during a difficult time in my teenage years, and how to this day as an adult I used things he'd taught me. I really could go on, but this is a blog post and not a memoir chapter. At any rate, he said this to me: "Your letter meant the world to me."

When he said that, I kind of choked up. I can't imagine what it must be like to receive a letter out of nowhere from someone you mentored 14 years earlier saying how much they meant in your life and life choices. It must have been an amazing feeling. Furthermore, he explained that it was actually a tough time in his life and it reassured him. He and I then talked for nearly two hours-- not really much time to catch up for 15 years-- but nonetheless it was a cherished conversation-- he told me how I always had the desire to win, and had "the fight" inside me to be the best, to be unstoppable. Back then, it was selling newspaper subscriptions door-to-door, but its still something I have inside me. He recognized that when I was 13-15 and kept me motivated to always do my best. And when I do my best, to show me that I can still get better than my best. My industries have changed, but the fire that GH lit all those years ago still burns strong. He groomed me for success. I am completely happy with my life and where I've been and where I am and where I want to go. Were there bumps? Oh god yeah. But the spirit and heart GH dug out of (I always had it- just took someone to notice and pull it out) is what kept me kicking.

The newspaper crew, led by GH and then later by M. and the guys I worked with were my life, my family. That's why my memoir centers around them. That's why I am going to Tulsa. Here's a crew of them below from an overnight sales trip to Arkansas in 1994 or 1994-- is the one giving the peace sign and DT, who I will also see is the the right under him next to me and the redhead.

My classmates in my creative writing class have read my early drafts of my memoir but it has took a complete turn. I have a great mentor who is pushing me- like GH did all those years ago- and I look forward to sharing this story with everyone soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things I've Been Craving: Tattoos, Snacks, Beer and House stuff

This blog is dedicated to the things I've been craving. Some I got, so I didn't. "Some I got" is poor grammar, I know. I don't know why I wrote that.


We have a really cool restaurant/deli at work. They happen to serve ice cream. One of my co-workers, G., walked by me with a dish of strawberry ice cream and it looked delicious and refreshing. So, I headed downstairs to get some of my own. Only, I took plastic Pepsi cup I use to fill up with soda (when I am bad) and water (when I am good) and decided that I would put a few scoops of vanilla in there. And then, fill it up with Mug root beer. My own home-made root beer float. To my dismay, everyone was craving ice cream today-- there was no vanilla left. I didn't think strawberry and root beer would mix, so I just ate the ice cream and took my empty cup back up stairs. But now, I am craving a root beer float like you wouldn't believe.

For a short while I worked for a Budweiser wholesaler doing promotions. During this time I was forbidden to drink anything but Anheuser-Busch products. At the time I drank a lot of Yeungling Lager, so my boss suggested Michelob Amber Bock. I liked it. I enjoyed buying cases at the employee discount. Once I left Bud, I didn't revert back to Lager either. I switched to Miller Lite solely because I was gaining weight. But, I still craved Amber Bock. But, nowhere I regularly drank offered it on tap. And, I always forgot to ask for it in bottles. So, last week when I went to Bar Louie at the casino with my friend, I saw it was featured on tap. Bar Louie is based in the Midwest where AB is located- so it made sense. I was excited and quickly changed my lemonade order to Amber Bock. Mmmm. So last night I was at a pizza place and the Olympics were on. I saw some amazing divers but then was even more dazzled by the ad for Amber Bock. Twice in one week I was reminded of a beer I spent so much time with back in 2002-ish. So today after work I went to Bonanza Beverage in Dallas and picked up a case of Amber Bock bottles for a mere $21.90. Killer deal I think.

I have been craving carpets, a dining room stable and storage solutions since I moved into this hell hole in May. The only way I can make the ugly ceiling and ugly paneling look better is with nice furniture. And jazzing up the place. I still think I may hold off on a TV for self-discipline reasons. But still, it just feels un-American to have one. Still, I guess I am pretty un-American because I do not shop at freaking Wal-Mart. At any rate, I finally decided to splurge. I got a nice new dining room table- pub style at Kurlancheek's in Exeter... super nice people there. I bought some area and throw rugs- a cool shaggy kind from Target. Next is a desk, some fake trees and some wall coverings and I will be set. I also bought a storage cabinet for the bedroom for all my junk. But that has to be put together so that will wait until after the Tulsa trip.
A TATTOO- Had a crazy dream

I put on my turn signal to turn into Marc's Tattooing at their new Shavertown location but I kept going in the direction of home/beer store. I've been contemplating my tattoo seriously now the past few weeks. I want to get the word "Imagine" on my back (lower or upper) or my shoulder. Any ideas?? I am not sure what font and if I want any kind of illustration with it. I thought if I stopped in I could get some ideas from the artists at Marc's Tattooing. But I figured I'd get roped into it, and if I got a tattoo now and it did make my back hurt, the flight may be uncomfortable. Aslo, I had this dream last night that made me feel better about getting a tattoo. I was at the tattoo parlor (why is it called a parlor?) and the guy injected ink inside me with a big novacaine type needle and it hurt. It was one of those dreams where you actually FEEL the pain. I woke up it "hurt" so bad. When I woke up I thought to myself, "If it is less pain than that, it'll be cool." And get this- I fell back asleep and I finished where I left off. I told the guy it hurt and he said, "You only have the top line of the Capital I. Is that okay?" I told him it was and I left.

First Grade Friends Follow Up

Just had to share the photo of my friend and her six-month-old daughter. I didn't snag one of her son and husband. But wow! Beautiful children. It was also a beautiful day at Nay Aug Park- thunderstormed at the end, but it was otherwise perfect. (You can see from my hair that it was starting to get windy!) It was great to see the family again- can't believe it went from four siblings to four couples and six grandchildren. And here I am, single and 30! Haha.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Grade Friends

I'm pretty excited today. Glad the thunderstorm passed. And glad that I get to see one of my life-long friends again today. She has been in Arizona for the past several years (before that, Lousiana)-- Air Force couple. I've seen her a few times over the past few years and also met her husband, but I have yet to meet her two children. Her younger sister, who is also in the Air Force and married with children, has been living in Turkey. Her older brother lives in New York, married with kids and then her younger brother I believe still lives in the Poconos. So- the siblings- who I practically grew up with too- have arranged family vacations at the same time-- and their parents decided to rent a park today and invite all friends and family they know of. The party already started, but I am more of a late sleeper and nooner kind of girl, so I am headed up there in about an hour. Enjoying some coffee-- and wishing my pictures weren't still at Dave's-- I'd love to bring some old Girl Scout photos to laugh over.

Since I am in the middle of writing a memoir, I feel closer now to the elementary school version of these friends-- it's funny how we're 30 but sometimes I can't get the "young us" out of my memory. I recently wrote about the friend I am seeing today- a scene where she is over my house and my mom and her then boyfriend got into a huge fight-- we locked ourselves in my room and cried until we heard his truck leave. Of course that's the nutshell version- but it just makes me realize how long these friends have been in my life and how I should make a better effort to stay in touch more- even if it's though phone calls and letters because of the geographical distance.

At any rate, I guess I should finish my brew, stop for ice for my cooler (soda only, kids- it's a family park) and head up to the Electric City for an afternoon for food, fun and old friends.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fear of Flying--- But I'll Fly Anyway, Plus Gambling

I've flown many times. I've even jumped out of a plane before. However, everytime I have to fly, I get nervous. Very, very nervous. But, once I am up in the air, there's nothing I can do. My strategy is that I sleep. I learned as a kid that sleeping gets you there quicker, whether it is a car ride home from grandmom's or for Christmas morning to come.

I finally booked my flight to Tulsa. I think I waited until the last week to book the flight because of my fear. I leave Thursday night and will return Monday night-- you can read a few blog posts down about what I plan to do. I haven't been on a plane since 2005. Wish me luck.

A few years ago, I flew to Vegas and joked with the people in line that I was gambling with my life by getting on the plane, and I wasn't even in Vegas yet... a few people thought it was funny and a few others gave me evil sneers. At any rate, I figured that would be a good segue into talking about the "new" Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The temporary casino has been open for years, but just a few weeks ago, the full casino opened. I checked it out on Monday- didn't win anything but I had a good time. I checked out Bar Louie after I lost my allotted gambling funds... it rocked. My kind of place- lots of beer on tap, casual atmosphere and a great menu.

I had Mom's Meatloaf fo $11.95-- it was two large slices of meatloaf (with that bbq glaze sauce, kinda like the stuff I make) atop a large serving of REAL mashed potatoes and then the dish was topped with peas. The meatloaf was amazing- had mushrooms pouring out of it. The potatoes were so creamy and buttery. My pal for the night had a burger which he said was good. We shared a Cookie-tini for dessert-- it was a HUGE martini glass (bigger than my head) filled with six large chocolate chip cookies stuck in a huge pile of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and chocolate syrup. The service was very attentive and friendly. I want to go back- just need to pass the slots. There were lots of other dining choices there too, everthing from hot dogs and Johnny Rockets to fine dining at Ruth Chris. You can see all the dining choices at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Preparation for my new license, including lip waxing

I am two days late on getting my new driver's license. My temporary internet ID expired on 8/4. (read through July's entries to read more about the license stuff!) But I have good reason for not making it to the center for the picture. Nope. I have not been ill. I did not have jury duty. I was not serving in the Peace Corps. My reason is: I was in dire need of a hair cut. I didn't want the next four years of my life to include showing an ID with straggly hair.

So, today after work, I found a salon that does not require appointments. I got my hairs cut. The usual (well, I only seem to make time to get my hair actually cut and styled twice a year s so I guess technically its not my 'usual'- Gosh, I really need to spend more time on myself)- long layers and framed around my face, only this time I added side bangs. I know that when I wake up tomorrow and shower and attempt to blowdry while styling, it won't look like it does now. But anyway, Jenny did a nice job.

What goes along with a haircut? Well, I like going to the nail places to get that done. So, off to Dallas Nails. I pull up and see the guy tugging at the open sign's string. The light turned off. The door was open, so from a distance I hollered out, "Oh no! Are you closing?"

The man looked at me and said, "Eyebrows? No- go on in."

Wow. Was it that obvious? Maybe I wanted a pedicure. Maybe I wanted a color change on my nails. Nope. This guy was good. From several yards away he managed to spot my need, to catch a glimpse of my bushy unibrow. And to top it off, the woman who made my eyebrows beautiful asked, "Lip too?" This is the third time I went here and got her. So I said, "Sure." I wasn't too embarrassed being this was the third time she pointed out my light, blonde, hairy upper lip.

So today- I lost hair on my head, hair on my brows and hair on my lip. Kind of reminds me I need to shave my legs.


An Action-Packed Weekend: Drinks, Music & War (Paintball, that is)

Some weekends I sleep the weekend away. You know, R&R to the fullest extent. Sleep. Nap. Read. Eat. Nap. Sleep.

This weekend though, I realized how much fun you can have actually being awake!

Friday, I had a great time with co-workers at the Arena Bar & Grill- we kinda got the VIP treatment from the staff there, which was quite awesome. Tomorrow, the owners of Arena are having the grand opening of their second location, Metro Bar & Grill in Dallas, PA-- I am pretty sure a bunch of co-workers are going to head up to help them kick off their new location. I am uber-excited because not only is this new bar near work, but also very close to my new apartment, so maybe I found my new local bar. By the way, I blogged in more detail on my company's blog here.

Saturday, I headed to Bethlehem to meet three of my Wilkes creative writing gals-- we spent the whole day at Bethlehem Musikfest, which is going on all week. It's probably one of the largest music festivals there are.... We had an amazing day watching artisians, eating wonderful food, listening to great music and catching up on where we are with our books/screenplays.

I love these ladies so it was so great to see everyone again. Two of us stayed the night at the other's house- had some great pot roast stew her husband made (complete with veggies from their garden) and we fell asleep watching a horror movie. Incredible day- side bar- we saw a kick ass Celtic rock band called Finn's Fury. The band rocked-- check them out here. I bought their CD after the first song. I wanted to stay longer for their show, but we only had one day at the fest, so we wanted to continue to walk around. We got all sorts of samples- Wii socks, toothpaste, Burt's Bees stuff and fans from the to-be-opened-in-2009 Sands Casino.

The next morning, Sunday I was off to v2.o of Cactus Paintball- we had a smaller group this time, but it was still a blast. I drove to Skirmish U.S.A right from Bethlehem. I blogged about it on the company blog here-- but man, it sure was a good time. I bought my first paintball gear- a mask. The rental wasn't tight enough and kept fogging up, so I sprung he 29.99 and got my own- worked out much better.

After Skirmish, since I drove myself, I was able to pick up two hitchhikers- they were young teens, maybe 13 or 14, my brother and sister's age. They were lugging their paintball bags and had their thumbs up, so I gave them a ride-- they would have had to walk about eight country miles to the one kid's house. It was my good deed of the day. However, I got turned around in their development and ended up in Brodheadsville- I know the area, just didn't know the development would put me down that far-- so by the time I made it back to 115 near Long Pond- they had blocked the road to let out the race traffic from the PA 500 so I had to detour and thus ended up in some traffic. So, I ended up being an hour behind my friends to meet them for beer and wings. So much for karma.

The weekend didn't seem to end- Monday I hit up Hops and then the new casino and tonight I went bowling. We had some beer and pizza- and I was so starving from my shopping excursion after work, that I had to get a bag of Bugles from the vending macine while waiting for the pizza-- and guess what! Taped to my Bugles was a coupon for a free game of bowling! I won a prize!! Booyah!!

I had so much fun the past few days and got to hang out with so many great people!! I think I need to sleep, but needed to blog before I forgot!!